Whether you support President Donald Trump or not, most Caribbean specialists we spoke with agree that undoing the progress the U.S. has made with Cuba in the last two years would be devastating for tourism.
Travel Agent recently chatted with some notable Caribbean specialists to get their reactions to recent news that Trump is looking to reverse many of former President Barack Obama’s policies toward Cuba.
Here’s what they had to say:
“Two years ago, when there was talk about opening travel on a limited basis, I was glad to hear it,” said Michael McHugh of Dream Makers Vacations Services. “I thought fully lifting the restrictions was good. I was excited not only because it is the closest Caribbean island to the U.S., but it also opens a window into a new culture and a window to the past. It would be a shame for the new administration to tighten up restrictions and close that door to many Americans experiencing the Cuban culture.”
According to two unnamed sources who spoke to The Daily Caller, the development is due to the efforts of Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
This information coming from an anti-embargo group, which spoke on the condition of anonymity, was confirmed Sunday by John Kavulich of the nonpartisan U.S. – Cuba Trade and Economic Council, according to The Daily Caller report.
“I’m not sure if Trump will untie the recent connections with Cuba that Obama put in place, but if he does it will be upsetting,” says Kristen DeAngelo of Dream Excapes. “In my opinion, I believe Trump should keep our ties with Cuba for two positive reasons: Americans will still be able to visit and understand the true culture and way of life for the Cuban people and the tourist visitation in Cuba will increase the overall economy of the country and its people.”
According to The Independent, the White House had put the Cuba policy under review as soon as it took office in January and is set to announce its position sometime in June.
“I think folks in the U.S. that have had an opportunity to experience the People-to-People initiative in Cuba have really enjoyed it and it has also benefited the Cubans with the increase of tourism in their country,” says Tom Varghese of Travel Tom. “Reversing the policy will not only have a negative impact on tourism as folks are looking for new destinations to explore, but may also impact our foreign relations with Cuba.”
Obama enacted several changes to Cuban policy during his tenure in office, including the termination of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that gave Cuban illegal immigrants a path to legal status, and the re-implementation of the People-to-People initiative, which requires Americans to take part in various cultural experiences in Cuba, essentially, as the name implies, putting them in direct contact with the people of Cuba with hopes of learning about the way of life in the country. It was implemented by President Clinton in 1999 and suspended by President Bush in 2004 before Obama resurrected the program.
“With everything going on domestically and internationally how is this even up for discussion?,” asked Andrey Zakharenko of Always Travel. “The only explanation I have is that Trump needs to get something done and make some of his Florida base happy.”
Last week, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., reintroduced a bill that would terminate the remaining travel restrictions for Americans and legal residents who wish to visit Cuba.
But although the bill received 55 of the 100 votes, representing a majority, it still fell short of the 60 votes required to advance the legislation. According to Reuters, there was no indication the chamber’s Republican leaders would allow the measure to come up for a vote.
An earlier version of the bill introduced in 2015 similarly had a bipartisan mix of co-sponsors, but ultimately never made it to the Senate floor, according to The Hill.
The Freedom for Americans to Travel to Cuba Act of 2017 is co-sponsored by 52 other senators, a significant jump from the eight backers for the original 2015 bill.
“Why reverse something that is clearly fulfilling it's purpose of delivering on it's promise of ensuring we have peaceful relations, people-to-people exchanges, and business opportunities?,” asked Stephen Scott of Travel Hub 365, Inc. “There are many dangerous places in this world to travel to, and with governments that provide less rights than Cuba, but we can still travel there. We should be realistic, optimistic, and willing to let travel and people-to-people experiences change hearts and minds, rather than limit the ability for the human spirit to help.”